Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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mwalls

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Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 5:10 pm

I listened to Nitrateville Radio today, and one of the interviews surrounded the theater in Rome, New York where Capitolfest is held. The Director of the theater noted how unusual the theater is in that it was built in the days of silent films, still operates as a movie theater and still has an operating organ. Now I am wondering if there is a list of such theaters somewhere, or if members on here know of some? I am curious to get an idea of how many there might be (the organ is probably what knocks many theaters off the list).

I know of two. One is here in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is the "Carolina Theater". The theater was built in the 1920's, still operates, and has the original organ. I was lucky enough to get backstage recently when the organ was playing to see the pipes built into the structure operating, and to realize that those pipes are 90 years old.

The other theater I know of is "The Weinberg Center" in Frederick, Maryland. It was built in the silent era, still shows films (among other events), and has a Mighty Wurlitzer.

Can someone point me please to a list somewhere, or share some they know to get a sense of how many (few) are still around?

Thanks,
Matthew
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Jess McGrath

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 5:32 pm

The Loews Theatre in Jersey City, NJ would (probably) meet your criteria. It opened in September 1929. Close enough to the "silent era"?

The Union County (NJ) Performing Arts Center opened in October 1928. It shows movies from time to time, but is not a full-time movie theater.
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Rick Lanham

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 5:35 pm

Here is a list of organs in the US (with links to other countries).
Don't know about when they were built.

http://www.atos.org/theatre-organs-united-states

Rick
“The past is never dead. It's not even past” - Faulkner.
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Hamilton's Grandson

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 6:20 pm

I don't know about a national list, but in my area, the Paramount Theater opened on March 1, 1928 for silent film purposes and has the original Wurlitzer Organ that still is used and the theater is run by the non-profit Seattle Theater Group (STG).

In Tacoma, the Rialto Theater opened in 1918 , but the Wurlitzer was sold in 1945 and the theater is used most often today for live performances.
Mark Hamilton (I) is on imdb.com
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maliejandra

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostFri Jul 14, 2017 6:11 am

We have the Mighty Morton at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. They put it on full display every year during the summer movie series where it plays the opening, intermission, and closing of the show. They also accompany the annual silent film presentation on it. The theater was opened in 1928 and the first film shown there was The Divine Woman, the only lost Garbo silent.
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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostFri Jul 14, 2017 12:09 pm

The Elsinore Theatre in Salem, Oregon was built in 1927 and has a Mighty Wurlitzer. Still shows silent films several times a year.
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Jeff Rapsis

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostSat Jul 15, 2017 4:46 am

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of playing the Wurlitzer 3/20 Model 240 at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa for a silent film program that was part of the Sioux City International Film Festival. This enormous 1927 movie palace was beautifully restored and reopened in 2002 as a performing arts center.

The Wurlitzer had been removed in the 1960s and wound up being used at the city's hockey rink, but was reinstalled at the Orpheum after the restoration and is now played regularly and lovingly cared for. So it's the story of one organ's remarkable return to its original home after a long stint outside the building.

There's also the Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma (on the original Route 66!) that opened in 1928 and remains intact, complete with its original Wurlitzer 3/10 theater organ. I've been by this theater but not inside; hope to check it out for real on the way to this year's Keaton Celebration in Iola, Kansas in late September.

For a lot more info, the American Theatre Organ Society maintains an authoritative online database of installations in the U.S. and around the world. It has a subset of "original installations" that seems incomplete, as it has only eight listed worldwide! Check it out:

http://www.atos.org/organs/original
Jeff Rapsis
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sepiatone

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostSat Jul 15, 2017 9:02 am

This posting from a few years back , a little dated, but about surviving theatres:

*

Part 2
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBGCDQrLxTU
Last edited by sepiatone on Wed Jul 19, 2017 8:55 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Donald Binks

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostSat Jul 15, 2017 3:49 pm

In Oz we still have a lot of cinemas extant that were built in the silent picture days - but it is harder to find ones that still have organs in them. The State Theatre in Sydney would qualify. It was built in 1929 and has been refurbished a couple of times now. Once back in 1981 and again only recently. The organ was in a dreadful state for many years and has also recently been completely overhauled. The theatre now does mainly live shows and the annual Sydney Film Festival.

In Melbourne, The Regent Theatre would perhaps sneak in. It too was a 1929 edifice. However, there was a big fire in it in 1945 which saw the destruction of the stage area. It was rebuilt and re-opened in 1947. The stage proscenium was "squared off" rather than retaining the original curve and a new organ had to be installed. Then in 1970 the owners of the Regent closed it and it lay dormant until 1996 when it was finally re-opened. All the fixtures and fittings had to be re-made or re-purchased as they had all been sold off, including the organ. (A new Wurlitzer was purchased from America.) Like the State in Sydney, the Regent does live shows, mainly musicals.

Happily the organs that were once in cinemas are still mostly singing away, only in different locations.
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The Hoosier

PostSun Jul 16, 2017 8:27 am

Image
The surviving movie palace of its county, it looks, increasingly, to be immortal -though, to be fair, it's had the advantage of having an organ or two replaced along the way. Built in 1924, it remains a single-screen, first-run film venue - which occasionally even lets a silent film slip in on the schedule. If a theatre had a good P.R. person, you'll find it, alongside the Hoosier, in many a "Lantern" search result :
Image
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Two Reels

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostSun Jul 16, 2017 1:03 pm

Hamilton's Grandson wrote:I don't know about a national list, but in my area, the Paramount Theater opened on March 1, 1928 for silent film purposes and has the original Wurlitzer Organ that still is used and the theater is run by the non-profit Seattle Theater Group (STG).

In Tacoma, the Rialto Theater opened in 1918 , but the Wurlitzer was sold in 1945 and the theater is used most often today for live performances.


The Mt. Baker theater in Bellingham, WA, opened 1927, had an old theater organ they used for silent screenings. I attended a couple silents there in back the 1990's. Last I heard from someone I know who worked at the Mt. Baker is that the organ is in disrepair, so...

IIRC, I saw on this site that they were screening a Buster Keaton at the Mt. Baker not that long ago, so I wonder if the organ is back in use.
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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostMon Jul 17, 2017 2:07 pm

The old Capitol Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin, opened January 1928 as a Fox theatre, has undergone a lot of reorganization over the years and is now part of the Overture Center for the Arts, but the Grand Barton organ is still there in place and they do 6-8 silent film shows per year with it.
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mwalls

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostMon Jul 17, 2017 2:30 pm

I find it interesting that in this thread 13 theaters have been mentioned, and nearly all, 11 out of 13, were built 1927/28/29. The two that were not were 1918 and 1924. Was there a boom in movie theater construction starting in 1927?

Matthew
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Rodney

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostMon Jul 17, 2017 11:17 pm

The Rialto in Loveland Colorado was built in 1920. Last Saturday I visited a charming museum in Longmont, about 20 miles south. The Dougherty Museum has limited hours, and holds the Idiosyncratic collection of a successful turkey farmer, including many vintage cars and player pianos. One item is the Rialto's two-manual Wurlitzer.

I found it interesting that the Wurlitzer had been installed at the Rialto in 1928. The museum states that it was used for silent film accompaniment, but the timing is off for that. I suspect that the Rialto laid off their orchestra with the coming of talkies, and bought the organ for live music during intervals. Though that's pure speculation.

The Dougherty keeps the organ fired up during museum hours, so you can just walk in and play it, if you have a mind to. Someday I suppose it could return to the Rialto, but I'm not a fan -- that orchestra pit is darn small as it is!
Rodney Sauer
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"Let the Music do the Talking!"
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Harlett O'Dowd

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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostTue Jul 18, 2017 12:43 pm

Like the Ohio, Atlanta's Fox has it's Mighty Mo and, while primarily used today for live shows, does run a summer film series with organ recital and sing-along. It opened Christmas Day 1929
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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostWed Jul 19, 2017 8:28 am

mwalls wrote:I find it interesting that in this thread 13 theaters have been mentioned, and nearly all, 11 out of 13, were built 1927/28/29. The two that were not were 1918 and 1924. Was there a boom in movie theater construction starting in 1927?

Matthew

No, the ones from the late 20s/early 30s are the ones still standing like the Loews Ohio. Grauman's Million Dollar dates from 1918 and is on the NRHP list. There were numerous theatres in the late teens and early 20s(sometimes you can see the names of long demolished theatres on silent & early-talkie, film lobby posters). Here in Washington D.C. they had the Knickerbocker where a famous 1922 snowfall caused the roof to collapse and kill dozens.
In the Picture Palaces Program I linked, even later gigantic Palaces built in the late 20s and early 30s like the Roxy(demolished 1960) and San Francisco Fox(demolished 1963) are now gone. So in documentary programming of the sort film/videomakers concentrate on surviving theatres to emphasize the topic. But yes, there were numerous theatres throughout the land.
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Re: Current Theaters built during the Silents with Organs

PostWed Jul 19, 2017 10:17 am

Columbus, Ohio (across from the Statehouse):

Image

Opened with THE DIVINE WOMAN in 1928; I believe still does Revivals in the summer.

-Craig

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